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Ten Lessons Spider-Man Can Teach Our First Nerd President

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“President Barack Obama is a nerd. A geek. A dork.
Last March, he said:
I grew up on Star Trek. I believe in the final frontier.

Obama fulfilled the fanboy fantasy of flashing Leonard Nimoy the Vulcan salute, and on his now defunct official Senate web page, he posted an image of himself posing with the statue of Superman in Metropolis, Illinois. As a kid, he copied pictures of Spider-Man and Batman out of a friend’s comic books and he even uses geek speak while decked out in formalwear. Obama’s such a Spider-Man fandork that Marvel Comics made him a character this month in Amazing Spider-Man # 583. Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada said: “A Spider-Man fan moving into the Oval Office is an event that must be commemorated in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man.”

So, at the dawn of his presidency, SG would like to offer Mr. Obama a few important political lessons that can be learned from the adventures of everyone’s favorite wall-crawler.”

(via Suicide Girls)

Political Corruption

(Picture via The Sun-Times News Group)

“The pathetic behavior of the Illinois governor – his brazen attempt to sell a Senate seat – raises the larger question of power and corruption, and whether having a position of power reliably leads to unethical behavior. (My first thought, upon hearing that Blagojevich had been recorded by the Feds, was that even the lowliest corner boys on the Barksdale crew were smart enough to not say incriminating stuff over the phone.) Here’s some suggestive evidence:

Researchers led by the psychologist Dacher Keltner took groups of three ordinary volunteers and randomly put one of them in charge. Each trio had a half-hour to work through a boring social survey. Then a researcher came in and left a plateful of precisely five cookies. Care to guess which volunteer typically grabbed an extra cookie? The volunteer who had randomly been assigned the power role was also more likely to eat it with his mouth open, spew crumbs on partners and get cookie detritus on his face and on the table.

Why does feeling a sense of power change our behavior? Part of the problem is that power is isolating. Our sense of fairness is innate, but it’s also fragile. As the Times notes:

Mr. Blagojevich had grown increasingly isolated in recent years, particularly from his own state’s Legislature and even from his father-in-law, Dick Mell, a powerful longtime Chicago alderman who showed him the political ropes as a younger man.The governor was rarely seen around his offices in Chicago and Springfield, preferring instead to spend time at home on the North Side.

“I believe he became a prisoner of his own home,” Mr. Jacobs said.”

(via The Frontal Cortex)

(“Rat sign vanishes from Blagojevich’s alley” via Chicago Breaking News)

Patrick M. Byrne: “Deep Capture” the Movie

“Hey Friends.Two years ago I began a campaign to expose a massive circle of corruption on Wall Street involving something called ‘naked short selling.’ The financial press, which had previously been quite generous towards me, immediately began devoting a tremendous amount of energy to misrepresenting, dismissing, and downplaying my allegations. It began to seem as though they were taking part in a cover-up, especially given that I simultaneously became persona non gratis on Wall Street, so that the entire discourse about whether or not I was right went forward with precisely one person precluded from taking part: me. The lengths to which this cover-up was prosecuted astonished even me: for example, last year a large conference (‘Value Investors’ Congress’) invited me to speak, but some powerful hedge funds threatened to boycott if I were allowed to tell me side of the story, and the invitation was rescinded.Times are changing, however, and a few weeks ago I was invited to speak to an even bigger conference of hedge funds. I did so, and was finally able to connect the dots for the public.”

(“Deep Capture” the Movie. “Deep Capture”, The (very long) Story)

“Eye At The Top of The World” Coming To the Big Screen?

“Pete Takeda’s book An Eye At The Top of The World has reportedly be optioned for a movie, and will be coming to the big screen soon, according to this story over at RockandIce.com. Producers Steve Schwartz, Paula Mae Schwartz and Nick Wechsler have purchased the rights to the true story and intend to make it into a fictional film.

The book, which I reviewed back in May of 2007, deals with a CIA plot back in the 60’s to install a nuclear powered listening device on Nanda Devi in a remote region of India. The device was suppose to watch the burgeoning Chinese nuclear program and watch for test of their atom bombs. After months of extensive training, a climbing team went up the mountain carrying the device, but near the top, bad weather set in, so rather than carrying the heavy device back down the mountain, they elected to lash it to a rock, and return in the spring to complete the mission.

When the team returned several months later, they discovered that an avalanche had swept the device off the mountain, and it was never seen again. Presumably it was deposited thousands of feet below in a glacier. Over time, the area was closed off, and rumors arose that the mountain was radioactive. The nuclear power plant had more than four pounds of plutonium in it, enough to poison everyone on the planet, and the theory is that it was broken open on the glacier, and may be moving towards Ganges River, home to millions of people.”

(via The Adventure Blog)

(Related: “Spies on The Roof of The World” via Damn Interesting. “Brown: Author Talks About ‘Eye on Top of The World’ via Daily Camera. Excerpts from “An Eye at the Top of The World” via Google Books)

Broken Trust

“A fundamental problem in the financial markets right now – a problem that’s often traced to the failure of Lehman Brothers last month – is the breakdown of trust. Because financial institutions don’t “trust” the solvency of other institutions and corporations, they aren’t willing to lend money. The end result is a frozen credit market. This is precisely what happened during the Great Depression. After Black Friday, the public lost confidence in the economy, and people began to hastily withdraw their money from banks. The result was a rash of bank failures, and an even larger push to withdraw cash. From 1929 to 1933, over nine thousand banks collapsed, leading to a loss of deposits worth over $6 billion. Because the normal bonds of economic trust were broken, a moderate recession became a devastating and deflationary depression.

But what triggers the breakdown of trust?”

(via The Frontal Cortex)

(Related: “Loss Aversion and the Stock Market”. And the follow-up to “The Giant Pool of Money”, “Another Frightening Show About the Economy” via This American Life. This excellent show goes into detail about exactly what happened to cause the mess we’re in. Thanks Stewart!)

The Giant Pool of Money

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An old radio show from May that gives a good explanation on the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

“A special program about the housing crisis produced in a special collaboration with NPR News. We explain it all to you. What does the housing crisis have to do with the turmoil on Wall Street? Why did banks make half-million dollar loans to people without jobs or income? And why is everyone talking so much about the 1930s? It all comes back to the Giant Pool of Money.”

(via NPR. Thanks Stewart!)

(Related: “Hear: Is The Bailout Worth It?”)

Wasilla, Alaska, Gadfly Goes Viral

“The woman behind the infamous e-mail that aired criticisms of Sarah Palin to millions across the cyber-globe sat at a computer screen scrolling through unread messages, as dozens more popped into her inbox. “Let’s see, what is the next one?” Anne Kilkenny said with a smile, killing time before her family attended a Saturday evening church service. She clicked and skimmed the words: “Hateful liar.”

She opened the next one: “I think you are nothing more than disgruntled and jealous in some way!! Be truthful now. Are you pro-abortion? For gay marriages? Embryonic stem cell research? Euthanasia?”
“Blah, blah, blah, blah,” Kilkenny said, chuckling and shaking her head, moving on to the next e-mail: “Get your own life Anne and leave hers alone.” “Shame on you Anne Kilkenny, that is if you really do exist!” one person wrote. “You are probably fake.”

Kilkenny, 57, lives with her husband and son in a one-level home surrounded by raspberry bushes, crab apple trees, birch and fireweed. She speaks in a high-pitched voice, cheerful as a grade school teacher, pausing for deep breaths between thoughts. She parts her steel gray hair down the middle, wears ankle-length skirts, irons meticulously and grows potatoes and asparagus in her backyard.

After Sen. John McCain named Palin, the governor of Alaska and former mayor of Wasilla, as his Republican vice presidential running mate on Aug. 29, friends of Kilkenny’s in other states began asking, “What do you know about her?” Two days later, Kilkenny decided to set down her observations about Palin in a 24,000-word sober critique, e-mailed to 40 of her friends in the Lower 48.”

(via The L.A. Times)

The Age of Apathy, and I.D.G.A.D.

‘By far the most dangerous foe we have to fight is apathy – indifference from whatever cause, not from a lack of knowledge, but from carelessness, from absorption in other pursuits, from a contempt bred of self satisfaction’- William Osler (Canadian Physician, 1849-1919)

“It may well be that our means are fairly limited and our possibilities restricted when it comes to applying pressure on our government. But is this a reason to do nothing? Despair is nor an answer. Neither is resignation. Resignation only leads to indifference, which is not merely a sin but a punishment”- Elie Weisel

“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all-the apathy of human beings.”- Helen Keller

“The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”- Plato

“The biggest conspiracy has always been the fact that there is no conspiracy. Nobody’s out to get you. Nobody gives a shit whether you live or die. There, you feel better now?” -Dennis Miller

“The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment”- Robert M. Huchins

“Is it ignorance or apathy? Hey, I don’t know and I don’t care”- Jimmy Buffet

(I originally wrote this to take a look at the apathy prevalent in our society today without intending to look at this as a ‘generational thing’ because it generalizes entire groups of unique individuals, but I discovered that in order to talk about the current situation it was necessary to go back in time and look at the sociological trends that got us here.)

Recently someone sent me a link to the famous article written by Tom Wolfe, ‘The ?Me’ Decade and the Third Awakening’. When it first came out it in the mid-seventies it caused quite a stir. So much so that it became the label for an entire group of young people growing up at that time. ‘The Me Decade’ or ‘The Me Generation’ went on to become the ‘Baby Boomers’ new title. ‘See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.’ Analyze me, listen to me, and talk to me, me…me!! After reading through the article, it occurred to me that Voltaire was right. ‘Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’. The more that things change, the more they stay the same.

Some friends and I were talking over dinner when their 20 year old son commented on the attitude of some of his generation. He said that his peers are (and I quote) ‘very spoiled, selfish, and unrealistic about work and life in general. They tend to be self-indulgent, messy, and wait for others to take care of things. Some want a good paying job without having to be too inventive or work too hard for it, and many are foolish about handling money. Immediate self-gratification is expected and pursued. There is a tendency to blame others for things and many have to be rescued from their own lack of experience or incompetence.’

The youth of ANY generation has some of these qualities, so what’s different?

Much of the ‘Me Generation’ were the product of hard working parents who grew up during the Great Depression, and who fought and lived through WWI and WWII. Scarcity was the norm, and family and community were of priority. The future rebels of the 60’s grew up hearing about war and the enormous struggle to make ends meet in the quest for the ‘American Dream’. The anti-war protests, civil rights movement, sexual liberation, and other movements of the 60’s and 70’s, were led by a youth whose idealism and vision led them to believe that united together they could ‘change the world’. In essence this was correct. Many things did change, and some issues we’re still fighting for today.

The idealism and self-exploration of the sixties eventually morphed into the self-indulgent, narcissism of the 70’s and 80’s. Out of the communal focus of free love and equal rights for everyone, a scream for individuality and uniqueness emerged. New religious movements and psychotherapy became common place, and intense self-examination and hedonism became acceptable and encouraged. The mottos ‘Do Your Own Thing’, and ‘Do What Thou Wilt’ eventually morphed into disco glitter and glam, metal, punk and goth and ‘whatever turns you on’. ‘You create your own reality, baby. Go and get it!’

The advance in technology in the 90’s created a time of opportunity and optimism. With the ‘dot-com boom’, company mergers and spinoffs, and a fairly decent job market, the growth and expansion seemed limitless. Then suddenly, along with the event of 9/11, the ‘opportunities’ came to a screeching halt. The dot-coms went bust. Corrupt accounting practices were uncovered in large established companies. Many good paying jobs were outsourced or eliminated completely, and rampant corruption was found in the justice department, the political arena, business, financial, and housing markets, which left us little reason to hold on to such positivism.

In today’s social climate much of the idealism and self-indulgence of the past has now turned into apathy. The predominant attitude of today is filled with apathy, victimization, and what I call ‘I.D.G.A.D’ (‘I Don’t Give A Damn’ or I.D.G.A.S: ‘I Don’t Give A Shit’, if you prefer). And this isn’t limited only to the youth. Many adults fit this same profile.

What the HELL happened?!

For many people computers, video games, television, and cell phones take up most of their time and serve as a distraction to what is really going on around them. The rising cost of living and the dwindling of job opportunities have some people working two or three jobs just to pay the bills. Our Bill of Rights are being slowly stripped away by our government, ‘Big Brother’ is watching, and some people are so stressed out that they’re taking pills supplied by Big Pharma to put them deeper into zombie mode.

Take action and try to change things?
Who has the time, energy or motivation?
Lawsuits won by Big Business (which are intimately connected to our politicians and everything else) leave shareholders, disgruntled employees, and potential whistleblowers asking ‘why bother?!’

Information, communication and entertainment are an instant click away. The desire for attention and our ’15 minutes of fame’ are satiated though social networking sites, forums and blogs. The disconnection and isolation the instant world has brought leave many people yearning for community. Which ironically leaves some people all alone with their computers and gadgets trying to ‘connect’; searching for some sort of validity through their virtual worlds.

In spite of the fact that technology has been used mainly as a tool for the expression and exploitation of ‘self’, there has also been an increase in people using it for creating a force to combat the corruption that attempts to blind, silence, and control us. With our rights to protest being threatened (and in some cases protesters themselves being labeled as ‘terrorists’), it’s time to ‘wake up’ and take back the power that we have to make a difference. To take control of our anger and what we’re doing in the virtual world and manifest it onto the physical. Can’t find the time? Take some time off from your networking sites, games, texting and T.V, etc. and get out there. Don’t like this message?

Frankly…I.D.G.A.D.

Anxiety-detecting machines could spot terrorists

“A scene from the airport of the future: A man’s pulse races as he walks through a checkpoint. His quickened heart rate and heavier breathing set off an alarm. A machine senses his skin temperature jumping. Screeners move in to question him.Signs of a terrorist? Or simply a passenger nervous about a cross-country flight?

It may seem Orwellian, but on Thursday, the Homeland Security Department showed off an early version of physiological screeners that could spot terrorists. The department’s research division is years from using the machines in an airport or an office building – if they even work at all. But officials believe the idea could transform security by doing a bio scan to spot dangerous people.

Critics doubt such a system can work. The idea, they say, subjects innocent travelers to the intrusion of a medical exam. The futuristic machinery works on the same theory as a polygraph, looking for sharp swings in body temperature, pulse and breathing that signal the kind of anxiety exuded by a would-be terrorist or criminal. Unlike a lie-detector test that wires subjects to sensors as they answer questions, the “Future Attribute Screening Technology” (FAST) scans people as they walk by a set of cameras.”

(via USA Today)

Documentary: “Mr. Schneider Goes To Washington”

Mr. Schneider Goes to Washington is a documentary about lobbyists and campaign finance reform in Washington. The film was made after Jonathon Schneider became irate watching a 60 Minutes episode with Senator Hollings’ candid account of the corruptive influence of money in Washington. You can see it for free for the next week and a half on YouTube.

“In a recent CNN poll 67% of Americans said they believe the American government is corrupt. Even more alarming, it seems 99.9% of the population does nothing to change it. Frustrated by Washington and his apathy towards it, I was finally shaken off my comfortable couch and compelled to storm to the capital of the worlds only superpower to find out what is going on with his government.

Quickly, I discovered that things in Washington are even worse than I imagined. Because of their dependence on big business and special interests to finance their political futures, almost every decision the President, Vice-President and Members of Congress make is corrupted. After all, there is no bigger issue facing our political leaders than getting re-elected. From education to health care, social security to taxes, foreign policy to gas prices, Americans interests repeatedly take a back seat to that of special interests.

Amazingly, Washingtons political elite agrees. Lobbyists, Members of Congress, lawyers, even the Commissioner of the agency responsible for regulating the influence of money in Washington candidly admit this is the most destructive influence on American democracy. Yet no one seems to care. More people voted for their favorite American Idol candidate than for their favorite candidate for President of the United States. We care more about the marital status of our favorite celebrity than what our elected leaders are doing in Washington. This isnt lost on the media, whose news coverage reflects its audiences preoccupation. The result: a population of uniformed, disengaged and disenfranchised non-voters hold the worlds only super power in check.”

(“Mr. Schneider Goes To Washington”. A.P.E . (Americans Pissed-off Enough) site)

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